Sewing machine suggestions....

3 months ago

I am looking to buy or maybe my sweet husband will buy me a new sewing machine. Many years ago I first owned an inexpensive Singer and then purchased a Bernina that was pretty state of the art at the time. I rarely used most of the functions. I did mostly home decor and some kids costumes and stuff for some high school drama that was still mostly straight lines. I made drapes , some "loose" slipcovers and bedding but at what I would call intermediate level...I ended up giving my machine to a friend because it had been a year since I had used it and hated to see it just sit.

I now am interested in doing some more home decor type stuff for our house remodel....meaning drapes, decorative pillows, etc. I don't want total beginner and would like to have a few different stiches etc...but will basically sew straight or zig zag on light to moderate fabric and maybe a button whole or two.

One thing I struggled with was threading the darn Bernina, so a simple threading machine would be nice...the "kid" who always did it for me lives an hour away. That same kiddo might use the machine some as well. While not as "advanced..haha..." as me may use the machine some and probably would experiment more.

Is 200 to 250 a reasonable budget? If I really get into it since I have more time now I would then be willing to upgrade and gift the machine but I don't want to spend 500 or more and just do straight stitches. .

Thanks for any suggestions.

Comments (38)

  • blubird

    There is a difference in the quality and performance related to price. The inexpensive machines you see in Walmart and other places like that are really intended for light weight infrequent work. My suggestion is to go visit a reputable sewing machine store, and look at machines which have been traded in for more recent models. You should be able to find a previously used well made sewing machine for your price point. And the store may offer you some classes to go with the machine purchase.

    Anne thanked blubird
  • mainenell

    I got a Bernette for my daughter about 5 years ago that she has been really happy with. I think it was around $200 or $250. It is the introductory line for Bernina. Not all metal like the Bernina. (I still love my 25 year old Bernina!)

    Anne thanked mainenell
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  • Anne

    Thanks for the replies. I loved my Bernina I just really didn’t use it anywhere near it‘s potential. I don’t want to waste money by spending too little or too much. I want to think I will get more into sewing I also know last time I stuck to intermediate stuff. i Had never heard of a Bernstein.

    thanks to you both

  • nhb22

    I like my Janome brand sewing machine. I purchased a simple machine at Joanne Fabric. It was on sale Christmas before last. Very easy to thread!

  • Anne

    Never heard of that brand.

  • mgs137

    I love my Viking sewing machine and it hasn't ever needed repairs in the 15+ years I've owned it. Pretty easy to thread, too (especially compared to my serger, lol). I'd go to a store that sells machines and test them out. JoAnn's usually has a variety of brands.

    Anne thanked mgs137
  • nhb22

    I had not heard of it either until my friend recommended it. She is a super sewer!

    Anne thanked nhb22
  • Bluebell66

    I also have a Janome (model 8077) purchased from Amazon and in your price range - at least it was last time I checked. When we moved to a town that has a sewing store, I took it there for a tune up. The service man told me it is a great machine for basics/quilting/home dec sewing.

    Prior to buying that machine, I went to a sewing store and told them i had no more than $300 to spend on a machine for basic sewing. They immediately tried to up sell and showed me machines starting at almost a thousand bucks. I went to another store and had the same experience, so be prepared if you decide to go that route.

    Anne thanked Bluebell66
  • Anne

    Thank you all. I would get excited about all the fancy stuff but i know my skill and more importantly my dedication level. I am hoping to get into sewing again but until I actually am doing the sewing at that level I am not going to go in deep. I don’t have another friend to give a machine to ;)

  • Olychick

    Does your friend still use the Bernina? Maybe she's ready to find a new home for it? I want to like to sew but I actually hate it. Part of that is never having had a decent machine.

    I finally bought an inexpensive Brother, I think at Costco (a great place to buy something because of their return policy). I know that's probably not a quality machine, but I just wanted one that WORKS! I do mostly mending and a few costume/craft projects.

    One of my issues is also threading, so I got a self threading one. However, each time I use it I have to get on youtube to see how to thread it, because the owner's manual is unclear - or doesn't make sense to me. When I follow the directions, it's pretty easy. I especially like how easy it is to wind bobbins. It has about 10 or 12 fancy stitches, although I've only used the zig-zag, and a free arm/flatbed convertible sewing surface, which I find handy.

    This is way fancier than mine, but has the self threading feature (I had to look on the Brother website to make sure). I think mine was only about $100-$125 on sale. This has pretty good reviews:https://www.costco.com/brother-sm8270-sewing-machine.product.100131452.html

    This one is on sale:


    They also have a Janome:

    Anne thanked Olychick
  • Anne

    My friend does still use the Bernina. She is very talented and really enjoys sewing. She would lend it back to me or even do some sewing for me. But I want to be able to do it when the mood strikes.

  • bbtrix

    I also have a Janome, going on 18 years now. It’s easy to use and has an automatic threader. It came with quite a few feet which I find handy.

  • mainenell

    I have heard really good things about Janome, also. When I worked in a sewing shop one of the other seamstresses had one and spoke very highly of it.

  • c t

    All sewing machines thread pretty much the same way: through thread guides to the tension discs, down from the tension discs under another thread guide, through the take up lever, and through thread guides to the needle.

    >>>Pro tip >>>As a professional seamstress- I tie the new thread to the old one and pull it through everything but the needle. But I'm lazy, what can I say?<<<

    If you sew any heavy stuff...I'd look for a used industrial machine. I have one. Late Husband was driving around and saw one for sale on someone's lawn. Didn't even know how useful it was, but he said, as we unloaded it from the truck, "I told the guy my wife would never forgive me if I didn't pick it up." He paid $40 for it. The seller's Mom used to make draperies with it. I can't remember ever using the decorative stitches on my Bernina - either of them, but the newer one makes dandy buttonholes. It also has a needle threader, but maybe they all do, now.

    I will retire one day, and was eyeing that old thing to get rid of it. Then I had to take in a pair of jeans for Current Beau. No home machine is going to chug through that, nor would I chance throwing off the timing on one. I sew on an industrial machine at work, and my boss wouldn't care if I brought in an occasional piece of clothing from home to alter. Not everyone has that opportunity. If not for an industrial machine, those jeans would have to be discarded and new ones purchased. No electronic anything to go wrong on it, it's probably from the 40s or 50s and sews much faster than a home machine.

    I agree that price is more or less indicative of reliability and quality.

  • bbtrix

    Just want to note that I’ve mended many a pair of jeans and patched my pontoon cover with heavyweight marine grade Sunbrella material with my Janome. I intend to reupholster my boat seats using it next spring. It handles heavyweight well.

  • Lars

    I have a Husqvarna Viking, and it is very easy to thread. For your price range, I think you would have to buy a used one, however. Here it is on eBay.

  • Loretta Seeker

    If you're on Facebook, there are many groups on there that would help you choose. There's a Bernini group and probably a group for the other machines mentioned here, a vintage sewing machine group, numerous sewing groups, bag-making groups,

    etc., and they are full of people that do lots of sewing and have thoughts on different machines. I have a 34-year old Bernina that I love. I see used machines on Craigslist and Marketplace...might be worth checking them out.

  • c t

    bbtrix I once reupholstered some boat seats with an old Singer Featherweight I owned briefly. It came with a zipper foot, I was on a deadline, and I didn't have one for the other machine. My sister, who actually owns a boat, asked how much I charged the customer. I told her, and she said, "That was low. Have you ever heard of a 'boat dollar?' A boat dollar is $100, and nothing on a boat is less than 5 'boat dollars.' "

  • two25acres

    I have a Pfaff. It's a tank but it's also simple. My mom purchased it when I was 13. I am 58 today. I use it mostly for day to day repairs, quilts and repurposing felted wools into sweaters, pillow, shawls etc. I service it about every 2 years. You may be able to find a used one on ebay or elsewhere.

  • Lyndee Lee

    I love the ancient Singer machines...my newest machine is older than I am. I haven't killed one yet and even if I did, they are cheap to replace. A few years ago, I bought a 3 month old, barely used Juki, straight stitch only for around $200 (I should have bought two at that price!) but ended up giving it to my daughter for her cosplay projects.

    For home decor projects, a straight stitch only machine with a single hole needle plate has its advantages. Some of the attachments with the old machines are fabulous such as the rolled hemmer foot.

  • morz8

    I have a singer from the 50's, the one I learned to sew on and I think I could operate it blindfolded. ALL the attachments for it, button holer, and including the zigzag attachment which is certainly interesting to use ;0) Until she purchased that machine, my mother used to rent one for a few weeks each year and make all clothes for me and my sister in a sewing marathon. She traded the singer in on a machine she could better use for quilting after I was married - I insisted she go get it back for me ;0) (and I paid her trade in allowance)

    I did buy a simple Bernette 46 about 6 years ago - around $200 on sale. Easy, peasy for mending, curtains, pillows, small jobs.

  • One Devoted Dame

    I have a Husqvarna Viking, and it is very easy to thread.

    Same here. Highly recommended.

    I learned on my mom's Husqvarna Viking machine from the 70s, and asked to steal it when I got married. :-D My sister tried several Brothers, and likes the retro Viking she picked up recently. Great machines!

  • Anne

    I haven’t thanked everyone but I love the conversation and advice ! I didn’t know Huskavarna made sewing machines! i grew up on a farm and my granddad would not approve! I think I will try with a Janone and if I advance can past it on to my kiddo who would love it and if not he can come use it at my house. Love to all!

  • donnar57

    I have an almost-30-year-old Viking-Husqvarna 610 that was a basic machine (mechanical, not electronic like many of today's machines). It's been a workhorse with ONE repair in the 30 years, and that was last fall. It had simply gotten a little gummed up by not being used much for the last 3 years (I was working full time and taking a college class every semester -- who had time to sew!). No parts needed.

    My mom is sold on her Janome -- she just bought a new one after almost 30 years with the old one.

    I'm going to be looking for a second machine, nothing fancy, so I peeked into this thread. My mom was going to sell her old cherry wood sewing cabinet, the kind with 2 pins that swing down. Old style machines used that. I loved that cabinet and could not bear to see it leave the family - she bought it new when I was a toddler, and I'm nearing retirement now, so it was one of those quality pieces of furniture. It's now in my sewing room used as a put-everything-here table, but I'd prefer to buy a used secondary machine, something old and quality.


  • dallasannie

    ann, don't be intimidated by threading a machine. They are all pretty darned simple. I have an old Bernina and the thread really just lays right into everywhere it needs to go. No matter what machine you will have to thread the needle. You can get needle threaders to make that easier. I guess some of the new machines have an automatic threader, but that is just something else to go wrong. You know that you can always unfasten your machine needle, thread it, and put it back.

    When you decide what it is that you might want to buy, take a look at Craigs list or a repair shop if you are lucky enough to still have one. So many people are getting rid of machines that you should be able to find a good one for a good price on the resell market.

  • dallasannie

    When you do go to buy a machine, you may be shocked at the sticker price for a new good one.

    I recommend shying away from any of those expensive combination embroidery and sewing machines. The reality of how often you will use the embroidery, the real desire for it, and the expense of both the machine and the threads to do any of that are to be considered. What an extraordinary price to pay to be able to embroider something on something by machine!

    I see that the top of the line Viking (?) at Joanns sells for around $7,000! There is no amount of sewing or putting people's names on things that I could do to warrant that expense. I don't think, though, that you are even considering that.

    Some of these inexpensive little machines are so lightweight that they almost bounce around as you use them. Look for one that has some stablizing weight to it.

    Some of the older mechanical models are just the best. Too bad that you gave away your Bernina. You didn't have to use all the stitches. I love my old Bernina. I bought it new back when. And, the old Singer 400 series from my childhood is a work horse that can do fancy tricks if you want it to. And no one is going to kick it around. it is metal heavy!

    With the closing up of most of the fabric venues it is getting harder and harder to find anything to sew with, IMHO. One wonders just what this does to sewing machine sales.

    I see the recent customers who bought machines from the instore dealer at Joanns who come in for classes. From what I have seen of them they seem to be more about operating the machine rather than really doing anything with the machine.. I listened in on them the other day while I was trying to find something in the mess that is our local Joanns and my thought was that it was so uninteresting and technical beyond what it probably needs to be. What is more motivating and interesting is to see what it can really do on a piece of fabric and what advantage that is to you, the sewer. That is actually the first thing that you learn as a salesperson is to not overwhelm the customer with the features of the product, rather you want to show them what it can do for them.

    If I had to sit through these learning lectures and learn so much about how to use the machine, it would be really discouraging. Better to have a more simple machine that you don't have to climb a learning curve to use.

    Most older mechanical models operate mostly the same way. Switching from one to another is much like switching cars. You just have to learn where the wipers and lights are on both and you are good to go. Keep it simple and you are more likely to use it.

  • blubird

    Dallasannie, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the top of the line Viking has an MSRP of about $15,000, not $7000.

    That's why I suggested to the original poster that she visit a decent sewing machine store, not Wal-Mart, not Joanns, to find an older machine in tip top condition without the enormous price tag.

  • two25acres

    I Know I am late to the party but another option is to look at shopgoodwill.com auction. You can find a lot of older machines. I recently purchased a back up singer machine for next to nothing. Took it for service and a cleaning and it's ready to go. I actually paid more for shipping than the machine itself.

  • Marian Holdren

    I recommend you to take a look at these best sewing machine for quilting, and I hope that it'll help you to decide which one to buy. There you'll find info about five the best sewing machines with all the detailed characteristics. Also, you'll be able to find and compare prices and choose the one which suits you best. This article helped me to buy my sewing machine. I have Singer Quantum Stylist 9960, and it was the best decision to buy it because it works great for me. I hope that I managed to help you somehow.

    Anne thanked Marian Holdren
  • Anne

    I am leaning to a Janome. One of my kids was given a Singer and I borrowed it for my family room drapes so I didnt have to rush in. I appreciate all the responses and I hope it will continue for others.

  • Anne

    on the subject of threading.... come to me if you need to know very important info in my field of work, need help cooking or there is an emergency. Don’t ask me to thread a sewing machine! I know it is step by step but my brain cannot get it!

  • dallasannie

    bluebird, I think you are right about the price for the machine. Once the price gets over a threshold, it is all the same to me. It might as well be $100,000 by that time because it just falls beyond my understanding of value and worth by that time and falls off the edge of the real world.. You are right. It is even more unbelievable than $7,000. I can hardly imagine many of those being sold. Never, never, never could I justify that expense for anything that could come out of that machine, even if I were granted another 20 years of productive life! Unless you really have money to burn, it is way beyond any real value.

    And, the classes for learning to use the machine just seemed so dry and technical and uninteresting. There was no fun play with fabrics and threads going on. How could they? These women had bought machines that they could not just pick up and cart along to a class that teaches them what they can do with it, and how. There was nothing fun going on.

    Who needs it? No one. No one needs it.

    I know a woman who bought one of these big machines. After making a quilt for her grand daughter she ran out of enthusiasm for it and she also found that the threads to do all that machine work were so outrageously expensive. Grand daughter is now a young teen and I would wager to bet that she has no idea where that quilt even is by now.

    As my dad always said, "You don't buy the car and complain about the price of the gas.". I'll bet your dad said that, too.

    Just don't buy THAT car.

    Anne, I have heard good things about the Janomes.

    You are, obviously, a bright and accomplished person. If you can cook a meal and have quick thinking in the face of panic, you can 1-2-3 thread a sewing machine. Don't underestimate yourself. A new machine may do that for you. If you do spend for features, that might be one that you splurge on since it seems something that is a factor for you.

    Buy one that you can have fun with because it is all about fun and pleasure. Reality is that no one really needs anyone to sew anything for them. It is all optional and should just be fun .

    Anne thanked dallasannie
  • Anne

    You are so sweet dallasannie! The gas thing would be something my father would say! (Anyone remember the gas lines in the 70’s?) I cannot pretend I am going to turn into a great seamstress. And as smart as I think I am threading a machine stumps me!

  • Anne

    the Video was helpful too....

  • Anne

    Do they have a cat deterrent machine? LOL.

  • donnar57

    If you aren't following another thread, my Viking (which I was told, is NOT Viking-Husqvarna back in the day I bought it) went toast, and parts are no longer available for it. If you buy a used machine, you'll want something whose parts are still being manufactured, or aren't proprietary like the Viking's and Viking-Husqvarna's are.

    My mom is absolutely sold on her Janome DC2019, which she purchased this past fall as a newer machine beside her 28-year-old New Home. Mom is still sewing at age 88, which is fabulous. She doesn't have an automatic needle threader, which surprised me that she didn't look for a machine with that capability. Her machine came with a boatload of accessories and cost around $500. She uses it to make little dolls to give away and sell at craft fairs. (She donates them to Toys For Tots at Christmas.) These days, she is also using it to make costumes for my sister-in-law's college dramas/musical productions. She made a huge Queen of Hearts costume for their Alice in Wonderland, and everyone raved over it, especially the woman who got to wear it! Lots of thicknesses of fabric went into that dress.


  • dallasannie

    Your mom sounds like a dynamo and a real jewel! I hope you take after her.

  • dallasannie

    Ann, don't wait for your husband to buy you a machine. You go buy you a machine. Only you know what you want. You know husbands always come back from the store with the wrong darned thing. I wager to bet that he hasn't a clue. Let him bring you some flowers or a glittery jewel to show his love and devotion. Don't wait for him to buy you a sewing machine.

    You sound like a pretty independent person. and I doubt that you need anyone's approval or involvment.

    He may be a sweet husband, but don't wait for him to come home with a sewing machine.

    This is 2020, not 1950. You go girl! You go get YOURSELF a new machine! He hasn't a clue, I can guarantee you.

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